The Saudi Arabian government’s sudden decision to remove Pakistani earned Master of Surgery (MS) and Doctor of Medicine (MD) from the eligibility list of the highest paid tier affects the lives of hundreds of skilled Pakistanis and their families, and urgent measures must be taken by the government to rectify this. Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have already followed the Saudi Kingdom’s decisions, and diplomatic channels at the highest level must be opened to ensure that the termination letters issued so far are recalled, and at the very least, a grace period is provided to either enable a skill test for the affected doctors to prove their training or provide small amounts of retraining where necessary. Considering that some the doctors being terminated where hired as late as 2016, what led these governments to believe that doctors considered qualified only three years ago are no longer seen as such?

The problem seems to have arisen out of our doing; some affected doctors have laid the blame for this sudden reversal of accreditation due to a visit of the Gulf states by the College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan (CPSP) which touted the FCSP as the only training-based post-graduate degree in Pakistan, which led to the subsequent invalidation of other post-graduate degrees from Pakistan in the medical field. CPSP’s move to sell its own programme in place of others has not only caused a disastrous risk of job losses for hundreds of qualified and trained medical professionals, it has led to an invalidation which will affect generations of practitioners in the field.

Members of the CPSP that endorsed this move should be punished according to the law if possible and the government should issue a swift rebuttal to this misconceived notion before other states follow those in the Gulf. A retraction must also be issued by the CPSP over their problematic stance, especially since it is not based on fact; both MS and MD do provide training-based post graduate degrees and have done so for a century. A new system does not invalidate the old.

A Pakistani medical board has gone to great lengths to damage the reputation of the national skill level in an occupation that sends many Pakistanis to work abroad and support their families and often send back money in the form of remittances as well. The consequences of this ill-thought out marketing exercise is likely to affect the current crop of doctors as well. The state cannot let this lie without taking stern action.